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The worst is over

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"See you soon, Jack," Gwen said into the phone. "Yep. Don't worry, I'll stay with him, make sure he's okay. Yes, you too, bye."

She ended the call, slipping her phone into the pocket of her jeans and hauling herself up, and wearily down the stairs from the conference room.

She found Ianto where she'd left him, in the main space of the Hub. But before going to him she took a moment to look around from the bottom of the stairs. The place was a disaster after the tremors when the earth had first been taken, with broken sample jars and mugs and dishes and printouts, scattered across the concrete or bobbing sadly in the tide pool. But that was a task for later; it was Ianto she was more worried about. The time she'd known Ianto had taught her that if there was this much mess in the Hub and Ianto wasn't tidying it up, then she had cause to be concerned.

That, and the fact that after the day they'd had she understood completely.

Ianto nodded as she sat down beside him on the sofa, smiling weakly even though the tension in his muscles barely relaxed a fraction. But his hands were still clenched into the tatty sofa cushion on either side of his knees, so hard it was a miracle he hadn't torn through the worn fabric.

He wasn't looking at her. Following his gaze, she saw he was staring at the dalek, standing in the cog doorway with its top half blown to pieces. It would take time to clear it away, and probably Jack's help to make sure there wasn't anything dangerous left in its shell. It would certainly take more energy than either of them had right now.

She sighed, touching Ianto's cheek lightly, then sliding her hand down under his chin to turn his head away from the door. "Come on. Look at me, Ianto."

"I have to-"

"No." She didn't let him go. Not for the first time today, Gwen thought of the file she'd looked up a while ago - after Lisa, during Ianto's suspension - about the battle of Canary Wharf. Perhaps it was out of some morbid interest. Or maybe she'd wanted to understand what Ianto had been through, or maybe she'd been stuck on what she herself had only just avoided on the conversion table, but she'd gone down to the archives herself to search for the file. After she'd read it, she'd just sat there for a bit, staring blankly at the wall before she'd pulled herself together enough to go back upstairs.

That had also been the first time Gwen had heard of a dalek. She had almost forgotten about them until she'd heard the voices earlier today, and seen the hope leave Jack's eyes as he tugged them both close and kissed their heads, gripping them almost uncomfortably tight as though something was trying to tear them both from his arms. At the same time she'd seen Ianto's wall-eyed horror, as though he was seeing something other than what was in front of him.

Now, even after it was all over, Ianto still had a bit of that same look, as though part of him was absent and still locked in the past.

She sighed, following Jack's example and pulling him into her arms for a hug.

"There now," soothed Gwen, rubbing Ianto's back. "There we go, sweetheart. You're okay. We both are. Jack's on his way home."

"How long?"

"I dunno. The Doctor dropped him off in London, you'd think he'd give him a proper lift if he has a time machine... Timelords, no manners, eh?" she smiled, feeling Ianto relax just a little more and taking this as a sign to keep talking. "So, then I asked why he couldn't just ask UNIT to get him a bloody helicopter or something but apparently they're too busy, which I think means he's on their shit list again. Tenner says it was because of that whole thing on the phone to that General What's-his-face last week." She felt Ianto smile against the side of her face. "Anyway, long story short he won't be home for a bit, apparently the trains are all cancelled and the entire M4 is one massive traffic jam after everything that happened today..."

Ianto laughed weakly. "Everyone started getting out of London at the first sign of trouble I suppose. The big alien stuff always happens in London."

"It's 'cause London doesn't have us protecting it, eh?" she said with a grin, then winced as she remembered Torchwood One. She looked up to see the slight smile sliding off Ianto's face like dripping paint. "Shit. Sorry, Ianto. I didn't mean..."

"It's fine," he sighed, shaking his head a little as though to rid himself of troublesome thoughts. "We've had a long day."

"We have," said Gwen, snuggling her face against his shoulder. As she did she realised how tired she was; she could go to sleep right here with Ianto on the sofa. Maybe that would be the best way to wait out the time until Jack came back.

Ianto pushed her away, though the way he still held her arms loosely felt like he didn't really want to let go just yet. "Do you want to go home to Rhys?" he asked halfheartedly. "You don't need to wait really, if you don't want. I can just... um, get on with tidying this lot while I wait for Jack..."

Gwen shook her head. "Not on your life, Ianto Jones."

"But-"

"No." She raised her hand and cupped his cheek, a little scratchy with stubble because he hadn't had the time to shave; they'd had to rush out to an early rift alert this morning, even before any of this had happened. "Rhys knows where I am, and that I'm safe."

This was one of the best parts of having discussed things with Rhys properly, at last; her life was immeasurably better now that he knew the weight of such things, and how much of her heart was in Torchwood and the love she had for Jack and Ianto, and how much of it was Rhys's alone.

"Still-"

Gwen met Ianto's eye. "...That, and I promised Jack I'd wait."

"I don't need babysitting, Gwen."

"No. But you need to relax."

"I'm plenty relaxed."

She didn't dignify this with an answer, just squeezed the taut muscle of Ianto's upper arm, pushing him back to lie down on the sofa. He went with very little resistance, and when he was lying back she undid his top button and loosened his tie, curling up beside him.

"Shoes off on the sofa," said Ianto sternly.

"Bossy."

"Shoes off."

Gwen rolled her eyes and sat back up, kicking off her boots. When he tried to sit up with her, she pushed him back down with a hand in the middle of his chest and undid his shoelaces for him herself, taking off his slightly scuffed dress shoes and putting them neatly beside her boots.

"Happy now?" She said, curling up with her shoulder on Ianto's chest on the sofa.

He smiled faintly, and made a so-so noise.

Gwen looked down at him, propped up on her elbow. He stared back up at her with an odd expression on his face, watching her carefully. From this angle, she noticed his lips were very pink, and a nice shape, slightly parted. "Come on, she said. "I'm tired of thinking. Let's just... make out or something."

This was another good thing about having talked everything through with Rhys, including everything she had with both Ianto and Jack: a really, really good thing.

But Ianto wasn't having it today.

" 'Make out'? Really?" said Ianto, with a raised eyebrow. "You've been watching too many American romcoms."

"Oi! Firstly, you were the one who dragged us all to the cinema to see The Proposal last week. Though maybe that was because of the boss-employee fake romance stuff-"

"You didn't exactly go kicking and screaming. As I recall you said both Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were, and I quote, lickable, which, while I do agree-"

"-And secondly, you lot always complain when I call it snogging, so what am I supposed to say?"

"Firstly, that was Owen, not me," said Ianto primly, the twist of his mouth the only sign of the slight flicker of sadness that passed over them both at the mention of Owen. It was getting easier, but the grief was far from gone. "Secondly, he had a point. We're not twelve year olds in the playground."

"Well, what do you want me to call it?" said Gwen, a little affronted, a little playful. "What do you, Ianto Jones, prefer to call extensive and thorough kissing with tongue?"

Ianto leaned up on his elbows, raising his head to properly meet her eye. "I'm less interested in talking about the semantics of it than-"

She interrupted him by leaning down the short way to kiss the words from his open mouth; he kissed her back enthusiastically, and Gwen realised this was exactly what they both needed to banish the horrors of the day. To bring home the fact that - this time - they'd both survived.

They broke apart, and Ianto looked a little pink, staring at her with his mouth wet and shiny from her tongue, his pupils blown wide.

"-Practical demonstration. Is what I was going to say." His voice was slightly husky, in the way she liked so much.

Gwen grinned, patting him on the chest. "Glad to hear it, Mr Jones. Now, shall we give Jack something interesting to come back to?"

He didn't answer, except by leaning up to kiss her again.